My Grandfather Merz had a 30 foot Chris Craft cruiser which all of us grandchildren frequently cruised in with our parents running the boat. A typical Sunday cruise took us 20 miles up to the northwest end of Chautauqua Lake and back again with a picnic lunch served enroute. Summer vacations at Greenhurst on the lake were idyllic vacations for a five to twelve old youngster whose Grandfather provided docks for fishing for sunfish and bass, tree houses to play in and swings from the tall sycamore trees on the lakefront. We grandchildren all loved him dearly.
MY FIRST SAILBOAT:
The summer of 1946 I was teaching a high school level 'Introduction to Aeronautics' course at the Chautauqua Institution's Summer School near the northwest end of Chautauqua Lake. My parents had purchased me a spanking new 16 foot Skaneateles Comet sailboat for me after I was discharged from the Air Force and returned to Princeton University. With an uncle's help, we uncrated the boat in my Grandfather's monster four story garage in Jamestown, New York, and trailered it to the Lakewood Yacht Club across the lake from my former summer home at Greenhurst. It was also across the lake from my nemesis, GRASS ISLAND. We popped the boat into the lake, set up the mast, boom and rigging and I sailed northwest up the lake to the Chautauqua Institution where I had a one bedroom apartment rented for the summer. It was a beautiful evening about 8:00 pm with a light easterly breeze moving me along nicely.
The Chautauqua Yacht Club had a mixed fleet of sailboats which raced every Saturday and Sunday. It consisted of about six Comets, twelve Lightnings, four C-scows and various and sundry sailboats in the handicap class. Each class started five minutes after the previous class had started with the Lightnings getting the first starting gun. Most all the skippers racing Comets were newcomers as I was. At the end of the two month racing series I placed third out of the six boats in the Comet fleet. More important than getting a third were the friendships I made with many others in the Yacht Club. Many of these close friendships have lasted well over fifty years as you will see later in this story.
The most significant event of the 1946 season at the Chautauqua Institution was my meeting your future grandmother. Every day I had breakfast of a quart of milk and cinnamon sweet rolls on the steps of the Colonnade Building where your future grandmother and I first met. We sailed together a few times in my little Comet sailboat. The tiller broke off on my sailboat one time, stranding us in the middle of the lake. This did not favorably impress her with sailboats. These were the first and last times I ever got her on a sailboat as she could not swim.
NEW YORK STATE C-SCOW CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Gram and I were married the summer of 1949 and spent our honeymoon at my grandmother's summer home on Chautauqua Lake. It just so happened that the New York State C-Scow Championship Races were being held on Lake Skaneateles, one of the New York State finger lakes, about a six hour drive away. We trailed four C-scows from our yacht club to Skaneateles, plus your Grandmother and I in our Ford convertible carrying a cold keg of beer. We passed out cupfulls of beer to each car trailing a boat throughout the drive. I crewed with my friend Bryce Burroughs on his C-scow during these races and we won the New York State championship. I was hooked on C-scows for the rest of my sailboat racing career which lasted through 1995.
A sketch of a C-scow is illustrated below. It is a twenty foot planing
sailboat with twin leeboards, (like centerboards), on each side. Depending
upon which tack you are on and the wind velocity, one may lower each leeboard
individually, anywhere from full down to only partially down for best speed.
They carry 160 square feet of sail on a twenty six foot aluminum mast. Most
racers have three sets of sails. Light weather up to 10 mph, medium weather wind
velocity up to 15 mph, and heavy weather wind velocity 16 mph and up. With a
160 square feet of sail and a planing hull design these sailboats really fly
often reaching 20 to 25 miles per hour on a reach, (crosswind). Going 20 miles
per hour on a sailboat on the water is much like going supersonic in a US Air
Force F-86D Sabrejet fighter aircraft.
In 1965 when we purchased and rebuilt our new summer home at Chautauqua Lake's Wahmeda subdivision, I bought an old Palmer 'wood' C-scow sailboat and a beautifully rebuilt Chris Craft inboard runabout to teach our young children how to water ski. It was an old 1939 model runabout, but the mahogany had been beautifully refinished. I taught all the children to water ski that summer, but the standout was my five year old daughter, Courtney, who used special tiny water skiis. She could jump the wake of the tow boat like an acrobat. She was a real tomboy who always aped what her older brothers did. At age five, she also could race her mother's 50cc Honda motorcycle around our grass motorcycle race course at home in Viriginia. An excellent graphic of our Chris Craft water ski towboat is shown below.
1. The crew lowers the upper leeboard and climbs out on it after throwing the
upper back stay line over the side.
2. The skipper swims around the boat and climbs up and stands on the lower leeboard holding on to the back stay line.
The hollow aluminum mast will usually float for about five minutes. As soon as
the wind swings the boat around so that the mast is downwind, assuming that
the skipper and crew weigh at least 150 pounds, the boat will come up and
right itself. Everybody jumps into the boat and continues racing. Experienced
C-scow racers can often tip over and right the boat in two minutes or less.
Here is a graphic of the skipper and crew standing out on the leeboards just
before the boat pops up and rights itself after capsizing. Anyone who races
C-scows in winds over 25 miles per hour is either drunk or a damn fool.
In 1982 my boyhood friend, Dr. Bill Laird bought a new Melges C-scow. I
bought a set of light weather and medium weather sails for the boat. We kept
the boat at buoy in front of the dock in front of my home at Wahmeda on
Chautauqua Lake. I had a little 12 foot aluminum rowboat with a five
horsepower Evinrude outboard to go back and forth to and from the sailboat
and/or tow it to and from regattas that were held further down the lake at
the Lakewood Yacht Club. At first we raced the boat as co-captains,
alternating each race as skipper. Later on, Bill was the full time skipper
and I was the full time crew as he was a much better sailor than I was. We
raced together through 1995 with the Chautauqua Yacht Club. Bill had been
Commodore of the yacht club in 1950s and I was the Commodore of the yacht
club in 1984 and 1985. By the mid-1980s our yacht club had become the one
with the largest racing C-scow fleet in the world. We had 35 C-scows. Starting
each race was much like a C-scow National Championship regatta there were
so many boats. The graphic below illustrates all the boats
in our C-scow fleet with sail numbers. Our sail number was C-125 which
was our ages of 60 and 65 added together in 1986.
MORE POWER BOATS I HAD:
To shorten a long story I will just list and briefly comment them.
After we wore out the 1939 Chris Craft runabout I bought a new Evinrude 120 horse power, 17 foot inboard/outboard that continued as the family's water ski boat.
I traded the Envinrude in on a new Trojan 25 foot express cruiser. It had four berths, a bathroom with tiny shower, and a galley for preparing meals. It was the covered flying bridge model and was equipped with a 300 horsepower V-8 that would do about 25 miles an hour. I loved it, but ALL my family hated it. It had an autopilot for steering and auto throttles to maintain a constant speed. At that time I was on the Board of Directors of ITT Decca Marine so had a Decca Marine Radar on order. After two years I sold it to the Capo of the western New York mafia who insisted on paying cash. I stuffed about $12 thousand dollars cash in a coffee can which I hid in a neighbor's garage should he plan to send any of his honchos to retrieve it over the weekend. The Decca Radar did not arrive in time for installation. A fair sketch of the Trojan Cruiser is below.
During 1972 I obtained a little flat bottom rowboat from the local Girl Scout Camp, Twanakoda, that was closing down. My mother had attended it one summer about 1916. I trailed the little boat back to Virginia that autumn. Spent the winter season rebuilding it. Added reinforced frames, a new one inch mahogany marine plywood transom, new stringers, new decks, new steering, new outboard adaptor bracket, new Corvette gas cap filler, 2 seats & cushions and a tiny aluminum frame windshield. I then fiberglassed the whole thing and added adjustable trim tabs right beneath the transom. Next summer I trailed it back to our home at Chautauqua Lake and installed an 18 horsepower, electric start, Evinrude outboard engine. We called it 'Lucky Lindy' because it would really fly with one person in it. A rough sketch is below.